Wednesday, September 28, 2011

British Home Child Day ~ Remembering Henry Laws

Today is the first official day of remembrance for British Home Children in Ontario.  British home children, are the thousands of children taken from their homes in Britten and send as indentured workers around the world.  Some were sent to Australia, over 100,000 were sent to Canada between 1870 and until the late 1940's.  It is estimated that 12% of Canadians can trace their family roots to a British home child.  I am one of many Canadians with home child roots.

Henry "Harry" Laws
1887-1965
My Great Grandfather Henry Laws was born in 1887 in Birmingham, England.  His father Henry Sr. was a wire weaver and although he must have worked long and hard hours the family like most was not well off.  Henry's mother Caroline died 7 Jul 1893, after her death the daily care of the children likely fell to the oldest daughter while father Henry was at work.
In 1897 Henry Jr. and his younger brother William were picked up for truancy, with their father unable to pay the fine he was faced with a terrible choice.  He could be sent to prison for non payment, presumably all the children would then be placed into a work house, or he could turn the 2 boys over to a work house.
As hard on the family as this must have been Henry Jr. and William were sent to the Middlemore home in Birmingham together.  A few months later they were sent to Canada.
Luckily they were able to travel together and although they were sent to different farms to work on, they were only about a mile apart with a river between them and able to keep in touch.

Henry grew up to work for the railroad, becoming a section foreman in Queenstown, Maple Grove and later Marysville, New Brunswick.  Henry married Bessie Puddington in 1912 and raised 5 children together.  In Marysville he owned a 100 acre farm that was largely made up of bush, that he logged.

While Henry passed away long before I was born, his quiet strength lives on in family memory.